As we eagerly anticipate Thursday Night Football between the Broncos and Ravens to open up the season, everyone at Section 215 took the hours of research that we have done this off-season and with the gun held against our heads, made our Superbowl 49 predictions.
According to Vegas, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are the Superbowl favorites, followed by Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.
49ers : 6-1
I don’t like going with popular Superbowl predictions, but I also don’t feel the need to go against the grain just to be different. I’d like to think my pick is some sort of compromise between the two.
I think having Tony Gonzalez back for another year for the Falcons is huge, not because his impending retirement will propel the Falcons to win a Superbowl, but because he is still one of the best tight-ends in the league. Having Gonzalez for another year with Julio Jones and Roddy White, who at times both play like top-five receivers is huge. I also like the small upgrades of Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora because I think they are both two experienced veterans that are still hungry. And Matt Ryan is a top-five Quarterback regardless of what his detractors say.
I see the Texans coming out of the AFC because I refuse to bet on Peyton Manning and Broncos in the playoffs anymore, and I don’t like the off-season that the Patriots had. That isn’t to take away from the fact that the Texans have a top-ten quarterback in Matt Schaub, a top-five running back in Arian Foster, and the most dominant defensive lineman that I’ve ever seen in J.J. Watt. The Texans are a damn good football team, and with questions in the AFC, I see them getting over the hump and getting to the Superbowl.
In the Superbowl, I have the Falcons winning on a huge day from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. The Falcons had the NFC Title locked up last season and choked in the NFC Title game against the 49ers, and I see them coming back hungry this year, and edging out J.J. Watt and Texans in the Superbowl.
Football fans, rejoice! Starting this Thursday, the games will count for real. We’re on the cusp of kicking off another season of NFL football.
It feels as if the Super Bowl was contested just a few days ago given how memorable that game was between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, who are now your defending champions. Ever since Joe Flacco was successful in his first Big Game, the Ravens have underwent a litany of changes. Among them, losing Ray Lewis to retirement and Ed Reed to the Houston Texans.
The Ravens are expected to regress from last year’s Super Bowl winning campaign. The New England Patriots have also gone through a tumultuous offseason, low-lighted by Aaron Hernandez’ murder case and Wes Welker heading to the Broncos.
While everyone else in the AFC regressed, the Denver Broncos only improved–improvements that will have them playing in the Meadowlands in February at the Super Bowl.
In the NFC, the Eagles have a new coach in Chip Kelly, the Redskins are bringing back Robert Griffin III, the Vikings still have Adrian Peterson coming off a year where he nearly broke the single season rushing record, & the Saints, Falcons, & Packers are still at the top of the NFC class.
That said, the Seattle Seahawks will be the NFC representative in New York/New Jersey. Russell Wilson probably received the least amount of attention (playing in the Pacific Northwest) of last year’s rookie class of QBs, but probably outperformed the rest of them. Add Pete Carroll’s offense to a one of the best defenses in the league from last year and you have your 2013-14 NFC Champions.
Following the ultra-competitive 2012 NFL playoffs capped off by one of the more memorable, albeit bizarre, Super Bowls in recent memory, it is safe to say that the league is on the cusp of a golden age of high-end talent, both young and old. Entering the 2013 season, the normal narratives of how great Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are have given way to the expectations ahead of some of the league’s top young stars. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick all led their teams to the playoffs last season, and the general expectation is that, perhaps alongside Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers, these will be the names fighting for Super Bowls year-in and year-out. While this is certainly a possibility, as all of these players are great and seem poised to take control of the league; another team, that garnered attention this offseason for all the wrong reasons, has what it takes to hold off the youth movement for one more year and return to the promised land one last time: the New England Patriots. With all the negativity surrounding the usually laud-worthy Patriots, Bill Belichick has the motivating factor that seems to have been missing the past few seasons. The absences of Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker have forced Tom Brady to take his game to another level. If there is anything one has learned about the former MVP, it is that he is as competitive as any player in the league, and that people doubting whether he has what it takes to win one more Super Bowl only adds fuel to the fire. The Patriots are still in one of the worst divisions in the league, so it probably will not take more than 10 wins to lock up a spot in the playoffs. Gronkowski’s return will be key should the team want to make one last run at getting Brady and Belichick a fourth championship. The ultra-talented tight end has dealt with injuries the past two playoffs, and him not being able to contribute at 100% has hindered the Patriots greatly in their exits at the hands of the Giants and Ravens. Should Gronkowski return with a clean bill of health, Brady will have his most talented target to go along with new weapon Danny Amendola and a crop of impressive young pass catchers at his disposal. The balance of power, for the time being, seems to have shifted toward the NFC, so New England’s path to the title game should not be as arduous as in year’s past. Ultimately, the Patriots will meet the Seattle Seahawks at Metlife Stadium in a matchup of two of the most impressive leaders of men in the league, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. Wilson got the best of Brady in 2012; as the Seahawks legitimized their status as a contender with the upset win over New England. The Seahawks have the defense to give Brady fits and he will have to earn every inch against arguably the top secondary in the league. At the end of the day, the fact that Brady has had to work with an entirely new arsenal of pass catchers is what will help him get over the top at the end. The shock to the system of losing all his favorite targets has forced Brady to adjust his game and work even harder than usual to try and maintain his level of play. This can only spell bad news for opponents and that extra work will show up when his team needs him the most. The Seahawks will be in a position to win this game late, leading by two needing a stop to win. This is when Brady will cement his legacy as the best ever, manufacturing one last vintage drive, setting up Stephen Gostkowski to knock home the game-winning field goal and lifting the Patriots to their most impressive Super Bowl win to date in a 31-30 win.
Meg Werner-Section 215 Staff Writer
I expect to see the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos meet in New Jersey for Super Bowl 48. The Falcons are coming back with a ton of momentum after last season’s run to the NFC Championship game. Most of the team will be returning with Julio Jones continuing to be a stud receiver for quarterback Matt Ryan. However, the addition of Stephen Jackson can improve the Falcon’s running game and add a new dimension to Atlanta’s offense. I also see Tony Gonzalez, who has pushed off retirement for one more shot at a ring, playing a similar role to Ray Lewis for the Ravens last year, bringing strong leadership to the field. That veteran experience with an improved running game in an already strong offense will take the Falcons to MetLife Stadium in 2014.
I’ve always been a big Peyton Manning fan, and I think his Broncos will face the Falcons in Super Bowl 48. Manning brings strong leadership to Denver’s new fast-paced offense. Combine that with a strong receiving core lead by Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and the Broncos will have plenty of threats offensively. Wes Welker, from the Patriots, will also be a new target for Manning, although he probably won’t see as many catches as he did in New England. The Broncos defense is also strong with Wesley Woodyard who led the team last year in tackles and interceptions finishing as one of only two players with over 100 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions. The Broncos definitely have the defensive advantage over the Falcons, so they are my pick for Super Bowl 48 champs.